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Old 04-09-2007, 01:13 PM   #1  
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Default Scientific Paper on Willpower: Is it Depletable?

I thought this (warning: it's a 41-page .pdf file) was very interesting.

Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges


Common intuition and experimental psychology suggest that the ability to self-regulate, willpower, is a depletable resource. We investigate the behavior of an agent who optimally consumes a cake (or paycheck or workload) over time and who recognizes that restraining his consumption too much would exhaust his willpower and leave him unable to manage his consumption. Unlike prior models of self-control, a model with willpower depletion can explain the increasing consumption sequences observable in high frequency data (and corresponding laboratory findings), the apparent links between unrelated self-control behaviors, and the altered economic behavior following imposition of cognitive loads. At the same time, willpower depletion provides an alternative explanation for a taste for commitment, intertemporal preference reversals, and procrastination. Accounting for willpower depletion thus provides a more unified theory of time preference. It also provides an explanation for anomalous intratemporal behaviors such as low correlations between health-related activities.
It would have been funny to be a subject in that experiment. "But I'm eating this cake for science!"
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Old 04-09-2007, 04:52 PM   #2  
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I've seen several psych papers published saying that willpower and motivation are limited in a certain timespan.
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Old 04-09-2007, 05:30 PM   #3  
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Interesting model, although pretty high level. Not sure I agree with their definitions. They assume that "willpower" is like a limited commodity, and I'm not sure that works. Oh well.

It shows how commitment has to mean more than just "willpower." Commitment also involves strategies to cope when willpower runs thin.

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